Gift of Gab (Blackalicious): Alphabetical Swagger
In between Blackalicious releases, Gab has linked up with Solesides family member Lateef and The Crown City Rockers bassist Headnodic to form The Mighty Underdogs. Three guys from three groups who deserve at least three times the fanfare theyve yet received. Gift of Gab talks to HipHopDX about this incarnate, battling Brotha Lynch Hung in the late 80s, and if he thinks Papoose jacked his alphabetical swagger.
HipHopDX: Tell me about The Mighty Underdogs. How did this project come to be, and what is it?
Gift of Gab: Were basically having [The Crown City Rockers] sitting in when we do this live. This whole tour right now is Blackalicious presents The Mighty Underdogs with The Crown City Rockers. The Mighty Underdogs is myself, Lateef [from Latyrx] and Headnodic. Based on the fact that [Headnodic] is also in The Crown City Rockers, we tried to turn it into an interactive thing. Were a group that came together out of nowhere, but the chemistry was so strong. We did about 30 songs within a couple of months. It was easy. Lateef gave me a call one day and said, Yo, I wrote to some of these beats Headnodic got; theyre pretty dope. You should get on a couple of em. From there, it was instant chemistry. It flowed so smoothly that we did an EP and an album. The EP is actually available through Giftstribution.com.
DX: Is it all digital then?
G: In about one week, its gonna be available through all the digital distribution networks. Right now its only available through the website. We also have distribution through this company called Traffic Entertainment for hard copies. Its called The Prelude. Its six songs, just getting people ready for the album. We plan to drop the whole full length album in 08. These are just warning shots to raise peoples awareness of the group.
Were still putting records out on Quannum, but based on how the industry is, we think its a good time, just as artists, to put stuff out ourselves. We wanted to do this EP just ourselves.
DX: You are a king of the EP. Melodica and A2G are classics in a lot of eyes, including mine. In just six tracks, whats the secret to winning over a new fan?
G: We took songs from the record and we took songs that werent for the record. The EP is an entirely different body of work from the album. But it warms up people to what the group is about. The lead song on the EP is called Gunfight with MF DOOM. The album is called Dropping Science Fiction, and its completely different from a Blackalicious record. The whole record is based on fictional storytelling. Damn near every song. Songs about being in outer-space, songs about being abducted on tropical islands, gunfights, weve got a song called Im a Monster, where we morph into different monsters. We just wanted to make a fun record full of storytelling because there havent been a lot of records out there like that.
DX: Youre one of the few rappers/emcees who admits fiction in his work, but on top of that, youre also challenging storytelling in the Dana Dane/Slick Rick sense?
G: Exactly! Theres a line in the intro saying, Were not keeping it real. A lot of emcees focus too much on keeping in real. Thats cool, thats good, but people forget that this is art. Art is part of your imagination. Its limitless. You can go anywhere. Theres nothing wrong with doing it if youre being creative about it. What if Steven Speilberg kept it real all the time? A lot of great movies would have never been made.
DX: To what extent do you think that the iPod generation appreciates all forms of music coming together?
G: I think that thats where its going. Its a different generation. Back when I was coming up, it was a Rock crowd and it was a Hip Hop crowd and it was an R&B crowd. You can listen to some of these Rock groups now and hear Hip Hop influences in them. Some of the brand new ones. You can hear Hip Hop incorporating Rock. I think that its all music. The worst thing you can do is shut yourself off, and not explore everything out there. Everybody can appreciate good music. Hip Hop has always been like that, cause Hip Hop is the only music that can be Rock, Jazz, Calypso, Soul, any kinda music.
DX: With The Craft, a lot of former outsiders caught onto Blackalicious. This was happening simultaneous to a lot of Hip Hop consumers bootlegging, downloading or just not buying. Does going for that Indie Rock or experimental crowd pay off?
G: Im just grateful, man. Weve been doing this for over a decade now, and we try to stay consistent and push each other. Our whole crew tries to push each other to make dope records. Its been a blessing to have been able to do that this far. I dont really see any end to it. I still feel like theres a lot of music inside all of us that we still need to get out. Its good to see that. But its been a process. We started out putting our own records out, as Solesides, when nobody knew who we were. It was just a brick-by-brick thing. Over the years, weve been a following. It wasnt overnight. We put our first record out in 93; thats damn near 15 years of consistently putting out music and trying to elevate our live shows.
DX: In one of your liner notes, you shouted out to C-Bo and Brotha Lynch Hung. I like that from totally different crowds, theres a respect there. Tell me about that.
G: Blackalicious met in Sacramento when we were in high school. It was just a lot of battling cats. Brotha Lynch Hung was one of them cats that would just rip people to shreds back that. I also had a reputation. We bumped heads once and actually battled. After that, I saw him on the bus about a month after we battled and it was just all love. Its all love and respect. C-Bo, I knew them from high school. I knew C-Bos cousin really well. He used to come up to school and we used to cut class and just go rhyme. Ive known them for a while. I dont keep in touch with them as tight as back then, but if I see em, Ill holla though.
DX: Papoose got a lot of credit for his concept on Alphabetical Slaughter. Years before that, you had Alphabet Aerobics. Does it bother you to see him get praised for originality that could be argued isnt his?
G: [Laughs hysterically] I guess they didnt hear [my song]! I think that Papoose is one of the rawest lyricists. Hes a raw, technical lyricist. At first I was like, Wow, I did that back in 1994! Everybody dont hear everything. Maybe he didnt hear it.
DX: Ive always been perplexed by your record A 40 Ounce For Breakfast. On one hand its a whimsical rap about being bored at life, a bum, etc. On the other, its real pain, a real attitude, and a very common feeling in America then and now. Which was it for you in writing it?
G: That was just being young. Wow, that record was like 15 years ago. Just going out, wylin out, drinkin, and just doing the things that you do when youre young. Going overboard with it, to the point where its, Im starting to have regrets. This is really out of control, and its not cool. 40 Ounce For Breakfast was just getting that off my chest.